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Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 5

July 28, 2014 1 comment

An Incorrect View of the Human Will

Inherent in Arminianism’s deficient view of the impact of the sin nature upon the unbeliever is a corresponding view of the human will that does not comport with Scripture. Olson states that prevenient grace liberates the will from its bondage to sin and allows it libertarian freedom. He states, “All classical Arminians believe in libertarian free will, which is self-determining choice; it is incompatible with determination of any kind. That seems to amount to belief in an uncaused effect – the free choice of the self to be or do something without antecedent.”27 In the libertarian conception of free will, choices that are caused are choices that are coerced and coercion is a hindrance to freedom. In other words, free will means the absence of any hindrances (impediments) to the choices one makes (i.e. it is freedom from hindrances). Hindrances and impediments are primarily the various internal and external influences or causes that may direct the will towards a particular choice including one’s desires, his nature, or arguments in defense of a particular choice. Olson states that free will “includes being able to do other than one wants to do and other than one does.”28 He states that free will is “the personal power of choice over motives and between alternatives.”29 Thus, the will must have the power to override any motives that might direct our choices.

Libertarian free will also affirms that the power of God’s Word and even the powerful gracious influence of the Holy Spirit cannot determine choices that are made. They can have an influence and must have an influence in persuading the will if one is to be saved, but the will is the final arbitrator in whether to resist or embrace the influence God and His Word may have upon it. Olson says, “God’s influence lies directly on every subject so that nothing can happen without being pulled or pushed by God toward the good. However, free and rational creatures have the power to resist the influence of God. This power was given to them by God himself.”30 Nothing can determine choices except the self-determining power of the will. Anything else that would determine the choices the will makes is regarded as coercive. Without such freedom Arminians believe human beings cannot be responsible for their actions.

But Scripture nowhere teaches a libertarian concept of free will. First, it teaches that God ultimately determines all that takes place. As the Psalmist says, “The LORD has established His throne in the heavens; and His sovereignty rules over all” (Psa. 103:19). And again, “But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases” (Psa. 115:3). The Psalmist also notes God’s ownership rights upon the world: “The earth is the LORD’S, and all it contains, the world, and those who dwell in it” (Psa 24:1; cf. Deut. 10:14; Exod. 19:5; Job 41:11). Paul says, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen” (Rom. 11:36). One cannot argue with the Supreme Lord of all. The Potter has the right to do as He pleases with the clay (Isa. 45:9-11; cf. Matt. 20:1-16). God’s sovereignty extends from the broad flow of history (Dan. 2:21; Acts 1:7) to the most minute detail of everyday existence. “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father” (Matt. 10:29; cf. Luke 12:6-7). All God’s actions and future plans are unconditionally made. “Remember the former things long past, for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’; calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of My purpose from a far country. Truly I have spoken; truly I will bring it to pass. I have planned it, surely I will do it” (Isa. 46:9-11). “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent; has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?” (Num. 23:19; cf 1 Sam. 15:29). God’s sovereign plans are irrevocable by anyone or anything. Nebuchadnezzar after being humbled by God acknowledged His sovereignty in this regard saying, “For His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation. And all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to His will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of earth; and no one can ward off His hand or say to Him, ‘What hast Thou done?’” (Dan. 4:34-35). This indicates that God’s sovereign determination extends to the choices and actions of human beings (Prov. 16:1, 9; 19:21; 21:1; Isa. 46:9-11).

Scripture also rules out libertarian freedom by teaching that we cannot act apart from what our natures dictate. God never acts in such a way as to mitigate the immediate causes of one’s actions. Those secondary and immediate causes are connected directly to our human natures. The Biblical concept of human nature refers specifically to the spiritual disposition of the heart and mind. It is mission control central (Prov. 4:23). We are bound to our natures that determine the sorts of choices we are capable of making. In this regard, both Jesus and Paul make it clear that unregenerate mankind is in bondage to sin (John 8:34; Rom. 6:17). Paul says to believers in Titus 3:3: “For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another.” This enslavement to the sinful nature is the normal disposition of all unbelievers. There is no possibility of being inclined to repentance, faith or any truly undefiled act of righteousness in such a state of existence. In other words, the will remains in bondage to the sinful nature and all one’s choices are directed by such a sinful nature. A bad tree cannot produce good fruit (Matt. 7:17-18; 12:33-35; 15:18). Jeremiah communicates this truth in a memorable manner: “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots? Then also you can do good who are accustomed to do evil” (Jer. 13:23). Mankind has no freedom to act contrary to his nature. And the sinful nature never inclines a person to seek God or exercise faith and repentance. Furthermore, these passages do not support the notion that some superintending grace mitigates the impact of the sinful nature. Salvation in no way depends upon the will of man (John 1:13; Rom. 9:16). The consistent affirmation of Scripture is that men are in unmitigated bondage to sin. They have no universally divinely endowed freedom to escape it.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

27 Arminian Theology, p. 71.
28 Ibid., p. 129.
29 Ibid., p. 174.
30 Ibid., p. 131.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 4

July 21, 2014 1 comment

A Deficient View of the Sin Nature

First of all, prevenient grace has a deficient view of the sin nature and its impact on the unbeliever. It does not comport with a faithful understanding of Total Depravity as taught in Scripture and consistently held by Calvinists. Do all men in their natural state of inherited sin (Rom. 5:12, 18, 19) have some ability to move toward the good and to exercise saving faith? Before answering this question, it should be made clear that the question regards all people not some people (i.e. the elect only). In other words, Calvinism and Arminianism are in full agreement that grace is necessary for a person to exercise saving faith. In fact, there is no substantial difference in their respective interpretations of Eph. 2:8-9. Even Arminians admit that faith is a gift of God’s grace.26 Faith cannot be exercised apart from prevenient grace. This is not where the problem lies. Rather the issue lies in the fact that Arminianism asserts that all men are afforded this grace to believe and each has the equal capacity to exercise their wills to that end. But is that the teaching of Scripture?

The Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace nullifies the effects of the Fall such that men are enlightened concerning the truth that leads to the gospel and that all men have the capacity for “seeking” God. But Paul makes it clear in Romans 3 that: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (vss. 10-12). The present active verbs in this passage indicate the present status of all unregenerate human beings. There is no mitigation of the Fall here. According to Romans 8:8, those in the flesh (i.e. in the natural sinful state) are both unwilling and incapable of pleasing God. This is the thrust of Paul’s argument in the previous verse: “For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law [it is unwilling]; indeed, it cannot [it is incapable]” (vs. 7).

Paul is at pains to describe the life of the unbeliever as being spiritually dead (Eph. 2:1, 5; cf. Col. 2:13). He says to the believer: “We all once [i.e. when spiritually dead] lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind” (Eph. 2:3). If the state of the unbeliever (the rest of mankind) is by nature dead and considered as children of wrath, then in what sense are they also recipients of enabling grace that frees them to act in accordance with that grace toward procuring salvation? How can one be a child of divine wrath and the recipient of his grace at the same time? The only way to be relieved of death and wrath is not by prevenient grace, but by being made alive together with Christ which Paul equates in the same verse as being saved by grace. “Even when we were dead in our trespasses, [God] made us alive together with Christ- by grace you have been saved” (vs. 5; cf. Col. 2:13). In other words, grace is in fact the act of being made alive in Christ. Notice also the work of salvation here, which is a resurrection from spiritual death, is accomplished solely by God. Nothing is said about the instrument of faith at this point. One does not make himself alive from the dead. It is a supernatural work of divine grace. Prevenient grace cannot be described as making unbelievers alive together with Christ. This is exclusive language for believers only. The grace spoken of here is a grace that can only be said to affect the believer. It is a grace that necessitates the actual salvation of its recipients not providing potential salvation to those who do not resist it.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

26 See for example Arminian theologian. Picirilli, Grace, Faith, p. 165-67. Picirilli quotes Arminius to this effect as well (p. 161). Also see F. Leroy Forlines, Classical Arminianism (Nashville: Randall House, 2011), p. 257-60.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 3

Defending the Charge of Semi-Pelagianism

Olson states emphatically in his work, “Arminius’s theology was not Pelagian or semi- Pelagian in any sense because Arminius rested every good in human life, including ability to respond to the gospel with faith, on prevenient grace that restores free will. The free will of human beings in Arminius’s theology and in Classical Arminianism is more properly denoted freed will. Grace frees the will from bondage to sin and evil, and gives it ability to cooperate with saving graces by not resisting it.”21 It is difficult to see how these statements differ from semi-Pelagianism as understood earlier. At the very least, the practical implications are nearly identical with it. Thus, Arminians can affirm with Calvinists in the doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity but this has no practical value for their theology because it is nullified by their doctrine of prevenient grace. Although Olson denies the implications here, the Arminian doctrine of Original Sin and Total Depravity can only rightly be viewed as hypothetical. Olson affirms that natural humanity still suffers from the effects of inherited sin, but that his freed will is able to “influence him toward the good.”22 He says, “No person is left by God entirely in that state of nature without some measure of grace to rise above it if he or she cooperates with grace by not resisting it.”23 Olson indicates that the effects of the inherited sin nature remain upon all human beings who are born in sin, but that simultaneously they receive prevenient grace. This in effect enables true libertarian freedom. Olson states, that an “actual inability and an actual ability” exist alongside each other in a dual state, “one is natural and the other is supernatural.”24 Thus, the natural man is enabled with the ability to continue in accordance with his sinful nature or to act contrary to it by inclining himself toward the spiritual good. However, there are several problems with this perspective. I will address four principal issues.25

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

21 Arminian Theology, p. 142. Schreiner after reviewing extensive sources for Wesleyan theology says, “What is common in all Wesleyan theories of prevenient grace is that the freedom, which was lost in Adam’s sin, is sufficiently restored to enable people to choose salvation” (“Prevenient Grace”, p. 236).
22 Ibid., p. 155.
23 Ibid.
24 Ibid., p. 156.
25 I am not addressing some of the key Biblical texts Arminians use in support of prevenient grace such as John 1:9; 12:32; Rom. 2:4 and Titus 2:11. Thomas Schreiner addresses these texts in his article, “Prevenient Grace.” which can also be accessed a http://www.graceonlinelibrary.org/category/reformed-theology/arminianism/prevenientgrace/.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 2

The Doctrine of Prevenient Grace

When Arminians deny that their theology is semi-Pelagian the assertion is made in part due to their doctrine of sin. The common Classical and Wesleyan Arminian position is that man is indeed born in sin and concurs with Calvinism in the doctrine of the Total Depravity of man. Accordingly, man in his natural state is in bondage to sin such that he is not free to act with faith apart from the grace of God.13 However, the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace mitigates the practical implications of this doctrine nearly to the point of nullifying its effects. This is an important point because prevenient grace in a central plank in Arminian theology. Roger Olson calls prevenient grace the “linchpin” of Arminian soteriology.14 Olson surveys with approval the theological statements of various historical proponents of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace. For example, he states at length that:

For… later Arminians of the nineteenth century, Christ’s death not only resolved the guilt issue of original sin, so Adam’s sin is not imputed to every child born, but it also mitigated the corruption of inherited depravity. From the cross flowed into humanity a power of spiritual death as to excite in them various degrees or religious feelings, and enabling them to seek the face of God, to turn at his rebuke, and, by improving that grace, he averred, provided a free gift to all humanity. ‘The gift was the restoration of the Holy Spirit; not indeed as the indwelling Spirit of regeneration, but as the Spirit of enlightenment, striving and conviction.’ This common (not universal) Arminian doctrine of universal prevenient grace means that because of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit no human being is actually in a state of absolute darkness and depravity. Because of original sin, helplessness to do good is the natural state of humanity, but because of the work of Christ and the operation of the Holy Spirit universally no human being actually exists in that natural state.15”

John Wesley developed the Wesleyan tradition of the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace that is widely accepted today. Wesley lays out this doctrine in his sermon “On Working Out Our Own Salvation” (sermon #85).16 There he says prevenient grace brings forth “…the first wish to please God, the first dawn of light concerning his will, and the first slight transient conviction of having sinned against him. All these imply some tendency toward life; some degree of salvation; the beginning of a deliverance from a blind, unfeeling heart, quite insensible of God and the things of God. ” Wesley further states:

For allowing that all the souls of men are dead in sin by nature, this excuses none, seeing there is no man that is in a state of mere nature; there is no man, unless he has quenched the Spirit, that is wholly void of the grace of God. No man living is entirely destitute of what is vulgarly called natural conscience. But this is not natural: It is more properly termed preventing grace. Every man has a greater or less measure of this, which waiteth not for the call of man. Every one has, sooner or later, good desires; although the generality of men stifle them before they can strike deep root, or produce any considerable fruit. Everyone has some measure of that light, some faint glimmering ray, which, sooner or later, more or less, enlightens every man that cometh into the world.”

Wesley states, “No man sins because he has not grace, but because he does not use the grace which he hath.” Elsewhere in his writings Wesley states, “That there is a measure of free-will supernaturally restored to every man, together with that supernatural light which ‘enlightens every man that cometh into the world.’”17 Further in Sermon #85 Wesley makes a remarkabl statement that is of a piece with the basic outline of semi-Pelagianism. He believes the restored free will of man can be used to invoke more grace he calls “convincing grace” that is associated with emerging signs of conviction and repentance.18 He exhorts men to “stir up the spark of grace which is now in you, and he will give you more grace.” First of all, this suggests a cooperative effort that brings about salvation, although Wesley is careful to say that God’s gracious work is the primary impetus for the reception of salvation so that there is no boasting in the sinner. Nonetheless, this formulation suggests a semi-Pelagian framework for understanding how salvation is procured by placing in the restored free will of man the power to initiate further grace. Pelikan states that in semi-Pelagianism, “It was by grace that each stage of conversion was effected.”19 Yet, in each stage man must cooperate with grace before more is given. This sounds no different than Wesley’s view.

Summarizing, most Arminians hold to these distinctive features of prevenient grace. 1) It is bestowed upon all men at birth. 2) It mitigates the effects of the fall mainly by restoring to man libertarian free will that is able to respond positively to the gospel by exercising faith. 3) It allows men to be enlightened concerning the truth of the gospel. 4) It is not saving grace but it leads to faith which does save. 5) It is resistible by virtue of the fact that it enables the ability of the will to act contrary to it if one so chooses. Thus, in order to activate its power one must cooperate with it by not resisting it. 6) It precedes regeneration and thus the spiritual transformation of the believer. It should be noted that a few Arminians disagree with the first point. For example, Robert Picirilli believes that prevenient grace (which he calls preregenerating grace) is only supplied in the hearing of the gospel.20 However, a central point is that the doctrine entails stages of grace in which cooperation at each stage leads to more effusions of grace. This contributes to the charge that Arminianism is consummate with semi- Pelagian thought.

 

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

13 See Roger Olson, Arminian Theology, pgs. 137-57 where he argues convincingly that this has been the majority position of Arminians throughout history. Calvinist Thomas Schreiner draws the same conclusion from his review of Wesleyan theologians in his article, “Does Scripture teach Prevenient Grace in the Wesleyan Sense?” in Still Sovereign (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2000), p. 232-33.

14 Arminian Theology, p. 178.

15 Ibid., p. 153-54.

16 http://new.gbgm-umc.org/umhistory/wesley/sermons/85.

17 The Works of John Wesley, ed. T. Jackson (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1979), 10:230.

18 Colin W. Williams ties this notion of convincing grace in Wesley’s theology to the preaching of the gospel. See John Wesley’s Theology Today, p. 42.

19 Catholic Tradition, p. 324.

20 Robert E. Picirilli, Grace, Faith, Free Will (Nashville: Randall House, 2002), p. 158.

Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism Pt 1

June 30, 2014 1 comment

A consistent charge against Arminianism is that it is a form of semi-Pelagianism. Arminians consistently deny this charge and so it warrants an examination. This paper seeks to examine the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace and to demonstrate that it supports the charge of semi- Pelagianism. In the course of the examination, I hope to show that the doctrine of prevenient grace does not bear the weight of the biblical evidence against it.

Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism

The Pelagianism controversy in the early 5th century pitted the teachings of Augustine’s view of divine grace against that of Pelagius. Basically Pelagianism is understood as teaching that the natural man has “the capacity of self-determination by asserting the possibility of achieving sinless perfection in this life without grace.”1 In popular terms, Pelagianism would be the purest form of salvation by works. Pelagianism denies the doctrine of Original Sin and therefore of the depravity of man. It affirms free will in the libertarian sense in which man has a natural capacity to choose contrary to all possible factors that might otherwise determine one’s choices. Thus, it denies that God determines or decrees the actions of men. This would violate human liberty. Subsequently, the internal work of divine grace is not necessary in order to procure acceptance before God who demands moral perfection as a prerequisite of salvation.2 In affirming libertarian free will, Pelagianism asserts that man has the ability to act with sinless perfection if he so chooses. This is an absolute sort of anthropocentric construct and as such is rejected as heretical by all orthodox Christians including Arminians.

In the wake of the Augustinian-Pelagian controversy Semi-Pelagianism took hold in several quarters by a number of theologians. It was regarded as a middle ground between Augustine and Pelagius and his followers. However, the term semi-Pelagianism was not used until the 16th century Reformation.3 In contrast to Pelagianism, semi-Pelagianism states that man is affected by the fall of Adam, but that his free will is retained so that while he is inclined toward sinful behavior, he is not in full bondage to sin. John Cassian, the principal proponent of semi- Pelagianism, states, “There are by nature some seeds of goodness in every soul implanted by the kindness of the Creator.”4 Although, divine grace is necessary for salvation, that grace is resistible due to our natural freedom to choose contrary to its influence. Cassian and other semi- Pelagians rejected Pelagianism as heretical but felt Augustine’s doctrine of unconditional election and predestination went too far in combating Pelagius’ error. Augustine regarded the semi-Pelagians as brothers in Christ. Likewise, the charge from Calvinists that Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, while a serious charge, is not intended to consign Arminianism to heresy. Calvinists who do so have been unfair to the genuine teachings of Arminians.5

In order to be saved, semi-Pelagianism gives priority to the initiation of faith via one’s free will, the latter being regarded as a gift of God’s grace to all men. This in turn provokes God to supply further helping grace that the person must cooperate with in order for his faith to have a saving character to it. The capacity one has in exercising faith is the degree to which God will supply grace toward salvation.6 There is a balance between the human initiative and the subsequent divine initiative.7 Rebecca Weaver says concerning John Cassian:

“Human dependence on grace meant for Cassian that at every stage of the process of salvation grace must be operative; however, the freedom of the human will meant that grace must function in such a way as not to deprive the will of its freedom to choose. The operation of grace as conceived by Cassian, therefore, is highly variegated. God interacts with the multitude of individual persons in the multitude of ways necessary to assist them toward salvation while at the same time preserving their freedom. The notion of grace as variegated was important to Cassian’s position, for it served to protect the self-initiating character of the human will.8”

There seems to be some debate in defining the parameters of what semi-Pelagianism espouses. Our concern here focuses upon the priority of grace versus free will. For example, Roger Olson quoting Nazarene theologian Orton Wiley states in essence that semi-Pelagianism teaches that in the partial depraved nature of man, he makes the first move toward God in procuring salvation but then needs divine grace to move further. The initiating act of man provokes God’s response with the necessary grace to complete salvation.9 Thus, semi- Pelagianism would teach that man initiates the process of salvation and God responds by supplying the necessary grace to help the process along. In contrast, Classical and Wesleyan Arminians argue that God must first initiate the process via prevenient grace and then man responds. In either case, there seems to be no debate that whoever initiates the process, man or God, that a cooperative effort is necessary. Thus, both positions affirm a synergistic view of salvation.

In an article written by the staff of Modern Reformation, a Calvinistic journal, the authors make a distinction between semi-Pelagianism and Arminianism.10 In a helpful chart they categorize both as forms of synergism. However, they make the same distinction that Olson and other Arminians make, that in Semi-pelagianism man takes the initiative in salvation and in Arminianism, God takes the initiative. In either case, grace and man’s free will cooperate in the procurement of salvation. In their chart they make a distinction between 2 types of monergism. On the one hand, there is the monergism which teaches that God alone initiates and completes salvation. This is consistent with the teaching of the Augustinian/ Calvinist understanding of soteriology. On the other hand, there is the monergism of Pelagianism in which man alone initiates and completes salvation. In between these two poles exists various forms of synergism. The authors place Arminianism closer to that of the Augustinian/ Calvinist side and semi- Pelagianism closer to the Pelagian side. The closer one comes to the theocentric monergism of Augustine and Calvin the greater the affirmation of Original Sin and human inability. The closer one comes to the anthropocentric monergism of Pelagius the greater the denial of Original Sin and human inability. Although there is some merit to the distinctions the chart makes under the rubric of synergism between Arminianism and semi-Pelagianism, it would seem the distinctions are more sharply made than the evidence may warrant.

It must be agreed that Arminianism affirms in principle a similar view of Original Sin and human inability that the Augustinian/ Calvinist tradition teaches. Furthermore, there is no doubt that Arminianism teaches the priority of divine grace working inwardly to initiate the process leading to salvation. However, it is not equally clear that semi-Pelagianism consistently affirms that man always is the first to initiate the first move towards God. Historical scholarship has taken note of this. Jaroslav Pelikan indicates that semi-Pelagians believed that sometimes faith preceded the supply of grace and at other times grace preceded the exercise of faith.11 This is confirmed by Weaver’s study. She states that for Cassian, “In the case of some persons, grace will assist the will that already desires the good, whereas in the case of others, grace will arouse the will to good when it is not so inclined.”12 In either case, faith is always exercised via the free will of man by either cooperating with or resisting the grace of God and that seems to be the main point of semi-Pelagiansim. However, as will be argued, the Arminian doctrine of prevenient grace in terms of its practical outworking is not a one-time static event, but an ongoing and successive process whereby the unbeliever is drawn by stages to the culminating point of exercising saving faith. Yet, all along that process, the unbeliever must continually cooperate with grace in order to procure more grace. In this sense, Arminianism concurs with the semi-Pelagian notion that free will triggers the grace of God whether strictly in the initiation of the process or according to their view of prevenient grace in the continuing invocation of further supplies of grace.

Scott Christensen-Prevenient Grace and Semi-Pelagianism

 

 

1 Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600 (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1971), p. 313.
2 Pelagius affirmed the grace of God but that it was an external grace in the form of God’s moral law. It has no necessary influence on whether one chooses to obey it or not.
3 For more on the Pelagian and semi-Pelagian controversy see R. C. Sproul, Wiling to Believe: The Controversy over Free Will (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1997), especially chapters 1, 2 and 3.
4 Quoted in Pelikan, Catholic Tradition, p. 323-24.
5 Some of the reason for this stems from the departure of Classical and Wesleyan Arminianism by influential figures like Charles Finney whose theology was much more in line with Pelagianism. His subsequent influence on Evangelical Christianity has been debilitating in a pervasive way. See Sproul, Willing to Believe, p. 169-85.
6 Ibid., p. 324.
7Rebecca Weaver, Divine Grace and Human Agency: A Study of the Semi-Pelagian Controversy (Macon, Georgia: Mercer University Press, 1996), p. 72.
8 Ibid.
9 Roger Olson, Arminian Theology: Myths and Realities (Downers Grove: Intervarsity Press, 2006), p. 30.
10 “Grace, Sin and the Will: The Structure of the Debate” Modern Reformation 21:1 (Jan-Feb. 2012), p. 12-17.
11 Catholic Tradition, p. 324.
12 Divine Grace, .p. 72.

Conclusion-The Need for an Uncompromising and Vigilant Witness Against Arminianism

June 23, 2014 1 comment

“Warnings from the pulpit and denunciation of the errors of Arminianism are not now heard as once they were. Even in pulpits where the truth is preached, it is to be feared that, in some cases, a faithful witness is not raised against Arminianism. The cause of this may be due in a measure to the fact that in defending the cause of truth new forms of error have to be exposed and assailed, with the result that the old enemy is left so far unmolested as if it were dead. Unfortunately this is not so; Arminianism is very much alive in the pulpit, in the theological and religious press, and in the modern evangelistic meeting…. When we bear in mind the horror with which our forefathers regarded Arminianism, the modern attitude to it indicates how far the professing Church has drifted from the position of the theologians of those days.” (‘The Reformed Faith’ by the Rev. D. Beaton, p. 18).

Arminianism was the false gospel of John Wesley and his followers in the eighteenth century, and of D.L. Moody in the nineteenth. It is the stock-in-trade of well nigh all the popular evangelists of this century from Billy Graham downwards. The gospel halls of the Brethren, Open and Closed, are nurseries of Arminianism. The active agents of the Faith Mission and the Salvation Army, notwithstanding the moral and social results to the credit of the latter, spread the plague on every side. All the sects which have sprung up in these latter times, however divergent in their doctrines and practices—Jehovah’s Witnesses, Seventh Day Adventists, Pentecostalists, Mormons, Christadelphians, Cooneyites, etc., etc., have all in common, the fatal lie of free-willism. It is Satan’s sovereign drug, which causes the soul to sleep in delusion, and the end of such delusion is death. “Free will,” says Spurgeon, “has carried many souls to hell but never a soul to heaven.”

Arminianism is armed to the teeth in enmity to true and vital godliness. Where it flourishes its fruits are a superficial goody-goody form of godliness—the lamp and the light of the foolish virgins which went out in death and in despair. The Declaratory Acts of 1879, 1892, and 1921 in Scotland, and in 1901 in the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand threw open the flood-gates to the deluge of Arminianism. Spiritual death and desolation followed. The fat land was turned into barrenness, and the Churches adopting these Declaratory Acts are now well on the road to Rome. The ‘sovereign drug’ of Arminianism has flourished beyond the wildest dreams of priests and Jesuits. It is not by open and unabashed passing of nefarious Declaratory Acts that Satan as an angel of light now works. Subtle infiltration is his present policy and technique. What need there is for the ‘denunciation’ and the ‘horror’ the Rev. D. Beaton refers to, as the cloven-hoof of Arminianism is unmistakably seen far within the tents of the popular evangelical conventions, fellowships, and unions of our day! The Scripture Union, the Inter-Varsity Fellowship, the International Council of Christian Churches, the conventions of the Keswick fraternity etc., are all riddled with the cancer of Arminianism.

His ransomed Church in spotless robes From every tongue and race

He shall present before His Throne

Before His Father’s face;

And they through ages all shall sing:

Salvation is of grace.

 

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

Arminian Errors Pt 6

(v) THE PERSEVERANCE OF THE SAINTS

The fifth and last point of Arminianism implies that saving grace is not an abiding principle, and that those who are loved of God, ransomed by Christ, and born again of the Spirit, may be cast away and perish eternally. Against this false and God-dishonouring doctrine of the Arminians, Christopher Ness advances twelve arguments proving that special grace cannot be totally and finally lost. Saving grace, he points out, “is called a ‘seed,’ remaining in those that are born of God (1 John 3:9), an ‘incorruptible seed’ (1 Peter 1:23). Grace never differs from itself, though a gracious man does from himself. Saving grace cannot be lost, though as respecting its acts and operations it may not always be in exercise; but degrees and measures of grace (formerly attained to) may be lost. ‘Thou hast left thy first love’ (Rev. 2:4).

“The last and twelfth argument for the final perseverance of the saints is taken from the whole concurrent voice of Scripture testimony. ‘The Word of the Lord shall stand for ever.’ Dr. Moulin and others have computed the texts of Scripture, which declare the doctrine of the saints’ final perseverance, at six hundred: the twelve following may, however, suffice (merely as a sample) to establish it as a gospel truth: Romans 11:29; John 10:28,29; Luke 22:32; Romans 8:30,38,39; 1 John 2:19,27; 2 Cor. 1:21,22; Phil. 1:6; 2 Timothy 2:19; Malachi 3:6; John 14:19; Jeremiah 32:40; 1 Peter 1:3-5.

‘This is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing…. That every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on Him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:39,40).

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

Arminian Errors Pt 5

(iv) THE ATONEMENT

The Atonement is the satisfaction which the Lord Jesus Christ by His obedience unto death gave to all the claims of God’s law and justice in the room and stead of all given Him by the Father. It is on the ground and basis of Christ’s atonement—the work which He finished and the sacrifice which He offered—that sinners are reconciled to God. It is the sacrifice which God Himself in His infinite love, mercy, and wisdom provided whereby in a way consistent with the righteousness of His nature, sinners, lost, guilty and hell-deserving would be saved with an everlasting salvation. ‘Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins’ (1 John 4:10). The love of the Son in coming to suffer and die is equal to the love of the Father Who sent Him. Christ’s sacrifice is the one and only sacrifice for sin. It is of infinite value and merit, because the sacrifice of God in our nature. ‘The blood of Jesus Christ God’s Son cleanseth us from all sin’ (1 John 1:7). And to Christ alone as the propitiation through faith in His blood are we as sinners directed to look for salvation, ‘for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved’ (Acts 4:12).

Arminians believe in a Universal Atonement, that Christ died for all and every man alike, for Judas as well as for Peter, and in support of their view they appeal to certain passages in Scripture, which on the surface appear to teach that Christ died for the whole world of mankind. It is evident from Scripture that the term ‘world’ has a variety of meanings, and that it must always be interpreted according to the context in which it is found. This also applies to the word ‘all.’ The texts used by the Arminians to support their theory of a Universal Atonement can all be explained in the light of the context as setting forth an atonement for all the elect and the elect only. They do not in the slightest way contradict the Scriptural and Calvinistic doctrine of a Definite or Limited Atonement—limited in its design, limitless in its efficacy. According to the Word of God, Christ by His death infallibly secured the salvation of the elect, those chosen in Him and given Him by the Father before the foundation of the world. Those for whom Christ suffered and died are called ‘His sheep’ (John 10:11,15); ‘His Church’ (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25-27); ‘His people’ (Matthew 1:21); ‘His elect’ (Romans 8:32-35). If Christ died for all, then all would be saved, for it is impossible that they for whom Christ died and whose guilt He expiated, should be condemned and lost on account of that guilt. In His intercessory prayer Christ prays for all for whom He offered Himself as a sacrifice. ‘I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which Thou hast given Me: for they are Thine’ (John 17:9). And on these alone He bestows eternal life. ‘As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him’ (John 17:2).

The Universal Call of the Gospel and a Definite Atonement

If Christ’s death was only for the elect, how can pardon and salvation be offered to all?

“The preachers of the gospel” says Dr. John Owen, “in their particular congregations, being utterly unacquainted with the purpose and secret counsel of God, being also forbidden to pry or search into it, (Deut. 29:29) may justifiably call upon every man to believe, with assurance of salvation to every one in particular upon his so doing; knowing and being fully persuaded of this, that there is enough in the death of Christ to save every one that shall do so; leaving the purpose and counsel of God on whom He will bestow faith and for whom in particular Christ died, to Himself. When God calls upon men to believe, He does not in the first place call upon them to believe that Christ died for them: but that there is none other name under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved, but only of Jesus Christ, through whom salvation is preached. (Death of Death. Bk. 4, Ch. 1).

In Vol. 3, p. 295 of his Works, Dr. Owen also says, “Preachers of the gospel and others have sufficient warrant to press upon all men the duties of faith, repentance, and obedience, although they know in themselves they have not a sufficiency of ability for their due performance; for (1) It is the will and command of God that they should do so, and that is the rule of their duties. They are not to consider what men can do or will do, but what God requires. To make a judgment of men’s ability and to accommodate the commands of God unto them accordingly, is not consistent unto any of the sons of men… such are God’s commands, and such are the duties required in them. In and by them God doth use to communicate of His grace unto the souls of men: not with respect unto them as their duties, but as they are ways appointed and sanctified by Him unto such ends.”

John Calvin says, “As ministers of the Gospel are messengers between God and men, the first duty devolving upon them is to make free offer of the grace of God, and the second is to strive with all their might that it may not be offered in vain.”

The Sinner’s Warrant to Believe in Christ

“Let no sinner exclude himself from the benefit of the gospel, by saying either I know not if I be elect, or I know not if I be a believer and so I know not if Christ died for me and gave Himself for me in particular. This is to mistake the ground and object of faith: for as salvation in God’s purpose to the elect is not the ground of faith, and salvation in possession of the believer is not the ground of faith, but salvation in the Word of grace and in the gospel offer: this is the glad news that comes to the sinner’s ears, upon which he may build his faith and hope of salvation.

“The question then is not, are you an elect person or not? nor is it are you a believer or not? But the question is, are you a sinner that needs a Saviour? It is not Christ in the decree of election that you are to look to, while you know not that you are elected, that is to go too far back; nor is it Christ in the heart or in possession you are to look to, while you are not a believer, this is to go too far forward; but it is Christ in the Word. You know that you are a sinner, and Christ a Saviour held forth to you there, saying, “Look unto Me and be ye saved all ends of the earth, for I am God and beside Me there is none else.” (Ralph Erskine).

An Erroneous Presentation of the Gospel Call

“In giving the gospel call, take heed to the warrant wherewith you accompany it,” said the Prof. R. Watts, D.D., LL.D., an eminent Calvinistic theologian of his day in an address—’The Gospel Call’ which he gave to divinity students of the Assembly College, Belfast, in 1867. “In calling upon men to believe, beware that you give no other warrant than what God’s Word authorizes you to give…. The warrant of faith which consists in assuring all men that Christ died for them, is, in view of the awful fact that all men are not saved, utterly derogatory to the work of the Redeemer, as well as to the honour, the justice, and the truth of the everlasting Father. You will be led to conclude that the professedly unlimited atonement is really so limited as to be no atonement at all. The giving of such a warrant, in view of the unquestionable fact that millions of those for whom it is alleged the satisfaction was made, have perished, involves an impeachment of the love, and truth, and justice of the Father, or of the all-perfect righteousness of Christ. Whatever difficulties you may feel in giving the gospel call, you must not attempt to obviate them by the adoption of a theory of the atonement which strips it of all its glory and abstracts from it all that renders it efficaciously redemptive, or that really constitutes it a ground of the faith of God’s people and a guarantee for their full and final salvation. A desire for success has led many an ambassador to fall into the error. Commissioned to ‘preach the gospel’—to preach Christ and Him crucified— to proclaim the unsearchable riches which are treasured up in His person and work—the ambassador has reduced the gospel, the inexhaustible theme to one sentence, and shriveling up his message, has discharged it in the one utterance—’Christ has died for you!’ Out of this prime error has arisen all his embarrassment. Such a warrant of faith requires, as its background, either a special revelation in regard to the parties addressed or a universal atonement. Not being possessed of the former, the herald has endeavoured to find relief by adopting the latter.

“The preaching of the gospel does not consist in the utterance of one or two concise invitations to come to Christ. The object of preaching is to ‘produce both faith and repentance, and such invitations are fitted to produce neither. You are to expound and proclaim to all men the way of life, by exhibiting Christ in the infinite dignity of His person and grace of His official relations and work; you are to urge upon men the duty of accepting the salvation offered by God in Him, and of submitting to be saved in the way which, in the infinite mercy of God, has been provided. In doing this, you are to ply those you address with all the arguments furnished by the worth of the soul, the bliss of heaven, the unutterable woes of the lost, the justice and wrath of God, revealed in His law and in the history of its administration, and by His love and mercy exhibited in Christ and His work. This done, you can assure them that all who obey this call shall be saved. This done, your work as an ambassador is done. You have said all you have authority to say. In the execution of such a commission, the question will come to you again and again—Can these bones live? But in your felt incompetency to quicken the dead which strew the valley of vision into which the Head of the Church may carry you, call to mind the truth to which attention has been already directed; remember that you are a co-worker with God; that whilst you have charge of the external call, there is another—an internal call—given by the Omnipotent, lifegiving Spirit, whose it is to shine into the hearts of men, and give them to behold that glory of God in the face of Christ which it is yours to display before the minds of men in their natural estate.” (Free Presbyterian Magazine, Vol. 37:1).

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

 

Arminian Errors Pt 4

(iii) EFFECTUAL CALLING

“All those whom God hath predestinated unto life, and those only, He is pleased in His appointed and accepted time, effectually to call by His word and Spirit, out of that state of sin and death, in which they are by nature to grace and salvation by Jesus Christ, enlightening their minds spiritually and savingly to understand the things of God, taking away their heart of stone and giving unto them an heart of flesh; renewing their wills, and by His almighty power determining them to that which is good; and effectually drawing them to Jesus Christ; yet so as they come most freely, being made willing by His grace.” (The Westminster Confession of Faith. Ch. 10, Sec. 1).

“Whom He did predestinate, them He also called” (Rom. 8: 30). “Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus, before the world began.” (2 Tim. 1: 9).

“Now here is the touchstone by which we may try our calling not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace. This calling forbids all trust in our own doings, and conducts us to Christ alone for salvation, but it afterwards purges us from dead works to serve the living and true God. As He that hath called you is holy, so must ye be holy. If you are living in sin, you are not called, but if you are truly Christ’s, you can say, ‘Nothing pains me more than sin. I desire to be rid of it; Lord help me to be holy.’ Is this the panting of thy heart? Is this the tenor of thy life towards God, and His divine will? Again, in Philippians 3:13,14 we are told of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Is then your calling a high calling? Has it ennobled your heart, and set it upon heavenly things? Has it elevated your hopes, your tastes, your desires? Has it upraised the constant tenor of your life, so that you spend it with God and for God? Another test we find in Hebrews 3:1—”Partakers of the heavenly calling.” Heavenly means a call from heaven. If a man alone call thee, thou art uncalled. Is thy calling of God? Is it a call to heaven as well as from heaven? Unless thou art a stranger here, and heaven thy home, thou hast not been called with a heavenly calling; for those who have been so called declare that they look for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God, and they themselves are strangers and pilgrims upon the earth. Is thy calling thus holy, high, heavenly? Then beloved, thou hast been called of God, for such is the calling wherewith God doth call His people.”— C.H. Spurgeon.

Arminians on the other hand believe that man has the natural power of will to exercise faith on Christ. Sinners are therefore urged to make decisions for Christ. On this foundation of sand multitudes build their hope for eternity. The decisionist conversion is but the exercise of the unrenewed will. The faith in Christ professed is not the gift of God. The joy experienced is the joy of the stony-ground hearers. The hope cherished is not the good hope through grace, but the hope of the hypocrite that shall perish. All the religious activity which follows, is not of the Spirit but of the flesh. “Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy name? and in Thy name have cast out devils? And in Thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from Me ye that work iniquity.” (Matt. 7:22,25).

Saving Faith

The faith which is saving, which is the fruit of effectual calling or of the new birth is the gift of God. “By grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast.” (Eph. 2:8,9).

“Faith looks to Christ as holding the office of a Saviour. The command is given, and observe it is given to all as blind and guilty and helpless to look to Christ that they might be saved; and the first decisive and satisfactory evidence of a change of heart is to get a sight of Christ as the Saviour. We may even before this, have good hope concerning you, that the Spirit of grace has begun to deal with you: but we dare not, as we value the souls of men, and tender the glory of God, we dare not say, that any man is born of God, in other words truly converted, till he sees Christ.

“Many of you say you have faith in Christ. Can you tell us anything about Him in whom you say you believe? Were your souls ever ready to sink into hell? Did they ever stick fast in the miry clay of corruption? Locked up in the prison of unbelief? Icebound by impenitence? Laid lower than the beasts with lusts? Tormented as beset by devils? Did any one come to rescue you in that state? Who is He? Is He a Saviour? Mary saw the Lord; she could tell something about it. And so the two disciples going to Emmaus. Can you this day condescend upon a single incident, even to the extent of the twinkling of an eye? Any condition of body or soul in which you saw the Lord by faith? Can you tell what passed between Him and you. (Rev. Jonathan R. Anderson, Glasgow, Died 1859).

While Arminian converts usually manifest a strict and praise-worthy abstention in the life they lead from drink, smoking, gambling, cinemas, etc., and a self-denying zeal for propagating their gospel and winning converts, their attitude to the Lord’s day is not one of tenderness and love. “Ye are not under the law, but under grace,” is the Scripture which they wrest in order to justify themselves. True believers in Christ are not under the condemnation of the law—”for there is therefore no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus,” but they are ‘under the law to Christ’ as their rule of life. This the apostle states in 1 Cor. 9:21. Love to Christ is manifested and proved by love to His commandments. “If you love Me keep My commandments.” “He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” (1 John 2:4). All who have no love for God’s holy day, who are not grieved over how far short they come in keeping the Sabbath holy to the Lord and who are not wounded and grieved in soul when they see the Lord’s day desecrated, whatever their profession, and whatever name they may have, they have but a name to live: they are still in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. “This is the love of God that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not grievous.” (1 John 5:3). When the Lord writes His law in the heart in regeneration there is love for the Fourth Commandment, as surely as for the other commandments. Love to the Lord, to His Word, to His Cause, to His people and to His commandments, the holy Sabbath included, cannot be separated.

Arminian church bodies of our day have removed the ancient landmarks set by the godly fathers in the past as safeguards and bulwarks of the sanctity of the sabbath. The result is obvious. The curse of the Popish or “continental Sunday” has overspread the land like a flood. Is it any wonder that Dr. Kennedy of Dingwall said that Voluntaryism and Arminianism must be pioneers of Rationalism, for they are both the off-spring of unbelief?

Man’s Inability and Responsibility

Arminians hold that responsibility infers ability, and therefore maintain that when sinners are called upon to believe and to repent, that they have the power to do so. Such teaching is false to the core. The call given in the gospel, and given by all who preach the gospel in its fullness, to believe and repent is the outward call. It is the prerogative of the Holy Spirit alone in His internal and regenerating work to make the outward call effectual. ‘Many are called, but few are chosen.’

Although man through the fall lost his ability, he is still responsible and accountable to God, and because responsible he is duty bound to make use of the outward means and ordinances appointed by God, and the efficiency of which is dependent alone on His power. God has established a connection between the means and the end desired. He commands us to use them, and He has promised to bless them. To separate the means from the end, which the Lord has ordained for the salvation of sinners is to be guilty of separating what the Lord has joined. A despising and a neglecting of the means is a despising of the salvation the means bring before us. ‘And how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?’

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

Arminian Errors Pt 3

(ii) TOTAL DEPRAVITY

The Truth of God teaches that man through the Fall is in a state of spiritual death and alienation from God. He is depraved and defiled in his nature. His understanding, will, and affections are under the power and love of sin. ‘Out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness’ (Mark 7:21-22). ‘The Lord looked down from heaven upon the children of men, to see if there were any that did understand, and seek God. They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no not one’ (Psalm 14:2,3). “The whole human race,” in the words of Dr. Charles Hodge, “by their apostacy from God are totally depraved. By total depravity is not meant that all men are equally wicked, nor that any man is as thoroughly corrupt as it is possible for a man to be—but there is common to all men a total alienation of the soul from God so that no unrenewed man either understands or seeks after God: no such man ever makes God his portion, or God’s glory the chief end of his being. The apostacy from God is total or complete. All men worship and serve the creature rather than, and more than, the Creator. They are all therefore, declared in Scripture to be spiritually dead. They are destitute of any principle of spiritual life.” That is man’s condition as he is before God. ‘The carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the Law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God’ (Romans 8:7,8). ‘That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee: Ye must be born again’ (John 3:6,7). ‘The heart is deceitful above all things; and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9).

Arminians deny the total depravity of man, in that they hold that the will of man is free and has the ability to choose Christ and the salvation that is in Him. Such teaching is false and delusive. The will of man is free only to choose according to his moral nature, and as his nature is under the dominion of sin, man chooses accordingly. “Man by his fall into a state of sin, hath wholly lost all ability of will to any spiritual good accompanying salvation; so as a natural man, being altogether averse from that good, and dead in sin, is not able by his own strength, to convert himself, or to prepare himself thereunto.” (‘[Westminster] Confession of Faith,’ Chapter 9, Section 3). ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned’ (1 Cor. 2:14). ‘No man can come unto Me, except the Father which hath sent Me draw him: and I will raise him up at the last day’ (John 6:44). ‘Therefore said I unto you, that no man can come unto Me, except it were given unto him of My Father. From that time many of His disciples went back and walked no more with Him’ (John 6:65,66). All who are born again are said to be ‘born not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:13). The “evangelism” of decisionism, coming forward to the front, or standing up to make a decision for Christ, or signing decision cards, is purely Arminian. It is not of God, but of the will of man and can only end in delusion and eternal despair.

This “evangelism” of decisionism is based on another false and erroneous doctrine held and propagated by Arminians, that of a Universal Atonement. “There is in every mind, containing any acquaintance with gospel truth,” said the eminent Dr. John Kennedy of Dingwall, “the idea that an interest in Christ’s death is essential to safety. There is in every unrenewed heart a desire to avoid the necessity of dealing with a personal Saviour, and to attain to hope, through the gospel, without being ‘born again.’ The figment of a universal atonement, has been produced to meet this craving. It is just the gospel perverted to suit the taste of proud carnal man. ‘Christ died for all, and therefore for me; I believe this, and therefore I shall be saved,’ are the short stages of an easy journey to the hope of peace. To believe that Christ died for me, because He died for all, is to ‘believe a lie'; but even if it were true, of what advantage could this faith be to me? His dying for me, because for all, secures nothing for me. And to believe this, is something else than to believe in Christ Himself. It is, in effect, making His death a substitute for Himself. But instead of looking on the death of Christ as it refers to you, look, in the first instance, on its bearing on His own fitness to save, and on the prospects of all who are one with Him. To view it thus, is to see Christ commended instead of superseded by His death. The first thing, I require to be assured of, is Christ’s fitness to save me, a sinner. It is in Him I am called to trust. Ere I can do so, I must be persuaded that He is worthy of my confidence. This I cannot be assured of, unless I know Him as a sacrifice for sin. The merit of His sacrifice I cannot appreciate, but in the light of His personal glory. And I cannot appropriate the benefits secured by it, till I have first taken hold of Himself by faith. What I discover in the light of the cross is, that He can save me in a way that shall be to the glory of God. This is His great recommendation as a Saviour to me. If this were not true regarding Him, I could never confide in Him. And in the light in which I realize the infinite merit of His sacrifice, I know His love to be such as ‘passeth knowledge.’ To connect that love and the death by which it was commended, with those whom the Father gave to Him, does not deprive me of hope. It only assures me of how certain, and therefore how desirable the redemption is, which was purchased by His blood. The Person, in all His power and love, is presented to me; and the authority of God shuts me up to the acceptance of Him, in order to my salvation. It is light, revealing the glorious person, the infinite merit, and the ineffable love of Christ, and a call requiring me to come to Him; and not any supposed reference of His death to me, that encourages me to receive Him that I may be saved.”

William MacLean-Arminianism-Another Gospel

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